UCL Earth Sciences


Thomas Baird

“Awe-inspiring, dry, and insanely hot, Thomas has a lot in common with the Sahara.”

PhD project title:

Sahara Dune Sands: Quantifying Celerity, Dust Production, and Provenance.

Thomas B.
Project description:

The largest warm-climate desert, the Sahara covers an area approximately 9,000,000 km2, of which roughly 2,500,000 km2 is covered by sand dunes. Over this large scale, questions arise over quantifications of dune celerity derived from ground-based measurements. Often quantifications based on such methods extrapolate from a spatially and/or temporally sparse database. To address this issue, I am quantifying dune celerity using remote sensing techniques. This involves the application of the Co-registration of Optically Sensed Images and Correlation (COSI-Corr) algorithm across the sand seas of the Sahara in decadal time periods. 

A provenance study using heavy mineral analysis and U-Pb dating will also be conducted on pre-collected Saharan dune sand samples. The provenance of Saharan sand dunes is an understudied area, largely due to the cost of sample analysis. In undertaking this analysis, information relating to Saharan sand sea supply and desertification history will be ascertained. Moreover, the dust emissivity potential of these pre-collected samples will be quantified using a saltation chamber. Benefiting from the geochemical analysis of the provenance study, this experiment will provide further discourse into whether sand dunes are the major source of mineral aerosols in the Sahara.